OHE November 28, 1997 (c)

Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 22:26:32 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Makapu'u to Kaluanui

After kaukau-ing heavily on Thanksgiving Day, I knew I'd have to hit the trail the next day to burn at least a few of the many calories consumed. And joining me for the outing was up-and-coming hiker Nathan Yuen, who, like me, had Friday off.

Nathan told me he wanted to try something "challenging" and Kalena came to mind right off (we all know what Paka-lolo would suggest if offered the same request). However, I decided to hold off on Kalena this time and suggested hiking the crest from Makapu'u to Kaluanui (aka Mariner's) Ridge. Nathan agreed.

We met at Hawaii Kai Foodland at 8:30 a.m. and then drove up Mariner's Ridge where we left Nathan's car. From there, we motored in my vehicle over to the Makapu'u Lookout where we commenced the hike at 9:15.

This area, the eastern origin of the Koolau Range, is quite dry and many dryland plants like cacti, a'alii, Christmas Berry, and other low-lying shrubs populate the slopes across from the lookout. A steady breeze sailed across the pali from the windward side and Nathan remarked that such a wind direction was fortunate since much of the route followed along the crest and having the wind blowing the opposite way could be unnerving.

After 20 minutes of steady climbing, we passed a sandalwood plant that HTMC flora guru Ken Suzuki had pointed out to me on a previous hike. Sea Life Park lay hundreds of feet below us but we could still hear the yelps of seals begging for fish. Nathan had brought along a digital camera and snapped a bunch of pictures here and at other places along the way.

At a pu'u at the 909 foot level on the topo map, we could see down into Kalama Valley for the first time. I recounted to Nathan how my buddy Chris Thomas had called his wife via cell phone from this spot (Chris and ohana live in Kalama Valley). From the 909 point, the ridge dropped steeply about 300 feet to a saddle where we passed a puka in the ridge known as Kaulanaaka'iole ("the resting place of the rat").

An intermediate climb followed; then the biggest ascent of the day came soon thereafter. In all, we grunted our way from the 600-foot point in the saddle to a benchmark at 1251. From the benchmark pu'u, we were looking down on a wooden hang glider launch platform and a clutch of abandoned buildings that belong(ed) to the Bishop Estate. On the next hilltop was an abandoned Nike missile tracking station, and just below it was a radio tower belonging to cell phone companies.

After descending the benchmark hill, we passed the hang glider platform on the right, and then bashed our way through buffalo grass and Christmas Berry to another larger hang glider launch platform. Instead of following the crest (past experience told me that a battle through Christmas Berry would result if we did that), we descended a set of stairs to the paved single-lane road that comes up from Kamehame Ridge.

After walking a short distance on the road, we passed the cell phone towers where a couple technicians from Honolulu Cellular were perched above us busily working. They paid no attention to us as we hiked by.

At the road's end was the Nike site, which we were able to enter via a convenient hole in the fence. We eventually worked our way to the far side of the site, pushing through buffalo grass briefly until we reached a point where the fence had collapsed/been torn down. Leaving the Nike site behind, we then descended briefly through Christmas Berry and after reaching a small plateau went steeply down a rocky slope to yet another saddle. As we were descending, I pointed out at the top of the farside of the saddle an ironwood grove that is the trail club's traditional lunch spot when doing this hike. We reached the grove at 11:15 and rested and ate lunch there for 30 minutes.

I should also mention that I began to notice fairly new pink ribbons marking the route at about this time. Each ribbon had the name "Liao" handwritten on it. At first I thought these were placed by an HTMC member by that name but a later review of the club membership roster indicated that the guy spells his name Leao (as in Gerald Leao). Who "Liao" is is a mystery.

At 11:45 we pushed on and began a gradual descent to the saddle at the head of Kamilonui Valley. On the way, we spotted three goats, the color of creamed coffee, foraging on a narrow spur ridge below us to the right. The descent to the saddle was mostly boulder hopping and once we bottomed out, a series of ascents ensued.

The first took us to a pu'u topped by a single powerline tower. A second was a bit steeper and took us to a hill topped by three powerline poles. The latter is also the high point of the TomTom Trail that climbs from Waimanalo up a ridge to the summit crest. "I know it looks nuts but the trail `isn't so bad,'" I remarked to Nathan as we looked at TomTom. In a few minutes, I'd be repeating that remark again.

We continued climbing until we reached a steep 50-foot slope with a cable. Nathan was a bit apprehensive about this section, having never done it before, but I assured him it "wasn't so bad," the rallying cry of HTMC vets. We both made it up this slope with no problem and spent a few minutes resting. When I told Nathan the worst was now behind us, he gave me a look that said, "Damn, I'm glad to hear that."

After the break, we plugged along, climbing to a wind-whipped pu'u topped by ironwoods and then descending steeply to again another saddle (yup, this hike has to be the saddle king segment of the Koolaus) A couple of old cables were affixed to trees in this segment.

A fairly level section through ironwoods, Formosan koa, and laua'e ferns followed. We then climbed steeply up one hill and reached a clearing where we could see the summit of Kaluanui dead ahead. Several folks were sitting there enjoying the view and they could certainly see us, especially since I was attired in my trademark puka neon-orange shirt. When we later encountered these people at the Mariner's Ridge trailhead, they mentioned seeing us and inquired where we had come from. When we told them, they seemed amazed, as if we were a couple of great explorers arriving from the bosom of the wild mountains. Heh.

We topped out at apex of Mariner's Ridge at 1:45 and immediately began the descent because strong wind gusts would have made a prolonged stay at the summit a bit uncomfortable. We passed a couple taking pictures who also asked where we had come from. After being informed, they too seemed awed by what we had done. "I think we planted a seed in that guy's mind," I mentioned to Nathan after we bid the couple a good day.

We reached Nathan's car at 2:15, ending a five-hour sojourn in the Koolaus. Nathan dropped me off at my vehicle at the Makapu'u Lookout and I motored home, of course stopping off first at Waimanalo 7-11 for a deli sandwich and a Super Big Gulp to tide me over till I got home to devour some Thanksgiving leftovers. Hey, I'm a growing boy. :-)

Aloha and safe hiking to all,

--Dayle


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